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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Douglas Aircraft Company


Historical Note: Douglas Aircraft Company

The Douglas Aircraft Company was a pioneer in early aviation and is best known for its DC-3 transport aircraft.

The Douglas Company was founded by Donald Douglas, Sr. on July 22, 1921 in Santa Monica, California. The company was originally part of the Davis-Douglas Company, but the partnership dissolved in 1921 when financial backer David R. Davis lost interest in the projects being completed by the company. This opened the door for the founding of The Douglas Company, after Donald Douglas secured the financial backing of several California businessmen for his new company.

The Douglas Company had early success, particularly after the Douglas World Cruiser completed the first circumnavigation of the globe by air in 1924. The company held many contracts with the United States Army Air Service and the United States Navy. In 1932, John K. Northrop rejoined Douglas Company, Inc., which he had been part of from 1923-1927. Northrop founded his own subsidiary at Douglas, called the Northrop Corporation (this separate subsidiary was later fully absorbed into Douglas Aircraft in 1937).

The Douglas Company grew by leaps and bounds in the 1920s, mainly thanks to military contracts, and soon needed to grow and change. This led to the reorganization of the company, which was completed on November 30, 1928 with the help of brokerage firms E. A. Pierce and Co. and Bancamerica Blaire Corp. The new company, Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc., bought out all of the shares of The Douglas Company and moved to new facilities at Clover Field in Santa Monica.

The Douglas Aircraft Company weathered the Depression well enough to expand into the passenger transport market during the 1930s. The company then made significant contributions to the war effort with its transport planes and bombers, such as the C-47 Skytrain, SBD Bomber, and the A-26 Invader. Its success during World War II placed them in a prime position to provide transport to the post-War world. The company contended well at first, but ultimately faltered in part because of the DC-8 jetliner's failure to compete with the Boeing 707.

The company was struggling with both its backlog and the ability to keep pace with its rivals, and the ultimate solution was the merger of The Douglas Aircraft Company and McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in 1967. McDonnell Douglas later merged with its rival Boeing in 1997. Boeing combined the Douglas Aircraft Company with the Boeing Commercial Airplanes division, ending more than 75 years of Douglas Aircraft Company history.


Francillon, Rene J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920: Volume I. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1995.

Maynard, Crosby. Flight Plan for Tomorrow: The Douglas Story, a Condensed History. Santa Monica: The Douglas Aircraft Company, 1966.

Found in 7 Collections and/or Records:

William E. Boeing Sr. Papers

Identifier: 2005-10-06-B
Abstract William E. Boeing, Sr. (1881-1956) was an aviation pioneer and founded The Boeing Company in 1916. The collection holds textual materials, such as correspondence, philately, business-related materials, clippings, and ephemera, as well as photographs and illustrations related to his personal and business life, circa 1783-2008. Major areas of interest include family photographs and extensive personal and business-related correspondence.

Victoria M. DeVines Douglas Aircraft Photograph and Lithograph Collection

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: 1989-01-15
Contents of the Collection This small collection contains photographs and lithographs of Douglas Aircraft, 1933-1958. There are seven 8x10" black-and-white photographs of the Douglas DC series. Each of the aircraft are depicted in flight and several images include Douglas Aircraft Co. stamps on the reverse. There are also twenty 8x10" black-and-white lithographs of assorted Douglas aircraft. The lithographs feature an image on the front and a three-view of the same aircraft on the reverse. Also...

The Douglas Aircraft Company Records

Identifier: 1995-06-23-15
Abstract The Douglas Aircraft Company was a pioneer in early aviation and is best known for its DC-3 transport aircraft. The Douglas Aircraft Company Records contain administrative, financial, and legal records relating to the Douglas Aircraft Company from 1921-1945.

Founders of American Aerospace Exhibit Collection

Identifier: 2022-00-00-16
Content Description The Founders of American Aerospace Exhibit Collection consists of archival items dating from 1910-1965 that were acquired by the Museum of Flight for use in the "Founders of American Aerospace" exhibit, formerly on display in the Museum's Red Barn from about 2005-2022. The collection is organized by theme following the layout of the exhibit. Materials include printed ephemera, postcards, correspondence, and sheet music. The items represents early American aircraft manufacturing...

Alfred Goldberg Photograph Collection

Identifier: 2007-06-11
Contents of the Collection The Alfred Goldberg Photograph Collection contains photographs and a small number of textual materials that mostly pertain to aircraft construction and maintenance in the 1940s-1950s. It is likely the photographs were collected by Goldberg during his career at Bedek Aviation Company in an unknown position and as Superintendent of Maintenance at Flying Tiger Line. The collection has been broken down into two series: Photographs and Textual materials, which are both arranged alphabetically....

James D. Griffin Photograph Collection

Identifier: 2015-08-25
Abstract James D. Griffin was an engineer for McDonnell Douglas Corporation. The collection contains five hundred and ninety-six (596) photographs, likely collected and notated by Griffin, featuring primarily Douglas Aircraft Company airplanes manufactured during the 1910s-1970s but also, to a lesser extent, other manufacturer models; including Aero Spacelines, Boeing, Consolidated, and Northrop. There is also a small amount of clippings, newsletters, and articles.

Lynn H. Morrison DC-8 rollout slides

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: 2019-03-16
Content Description The Lynn H. Morrison DC-8 rollout slides consist of 10 color 35mm slides depicting the rollout of the DC-8 circa 1958. The aircraft is painted with Douglas livery rather than for any particular airline. The plane is on a tarmac outside a hangar with crowds of people around it.

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